Pawlenty's Broadening Palette
Gov. Tim Pawlenty returned yesterday from a three-day trip to Germany where he attended the Munich Conference on Security Policy, the latest evidence that the Minnesota Republican is working to broaden his policy palette in advance of a potential run for president in 2012.
Pawlenty was invited to the conference, which was also attended by Vice President Biden among many, many other international dignitaries, by Sen. John McCain -- a close personal friend and the GOP's presidential nominee in 2008.
The stated reason for the trip was so that Pawlenty could gain information and context on the situation facing Minnesotans being sent to Iraq. "The governor feels it's helpful to have a deep understanding of security issues," a spokesman told the Star-Tribune.
The trip to Germany comes less than two months after Pawlenty traveled to Israel for a week -- the stated purpose of which was to explore trade opportunities for Minnesota businesses.
While the Fix always takes politicians at their word (ahem), there's an obvious side benefit for Pawlenty to these foreign trips and the relationships he builds with world leaders.
Such trips allow Pawlenty, who is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2012, to shore up his one obvious weakness (and the weakness of any governor running for national office): lack of foreign policy experience and know-how.
One Pawlenty ally chalks up the trips in part to the governor's "curious mind" and "world-is-flat mindset," but insisted that while the trip does have ancillary 2012 benefits, the governor's job as Minnesota's commander in chief is the principal driver.
Regardless, Pawlenty's aggressive foreign travel has the effect of filling out an already-impressive résumé.
National Republicans point to Pawlenty's 2009 state of the state speech in which he outlines halving the business tax and increasing education funding while tightening government services elsewhere as a blueprint for GOP messaging on the struggling economy nationwide over the coming years, and view his populist appeal to critical Midwestern voters -- having been elected to two terms in Minnesota -- as an attractive package heading into 2012.
A survey of nearly 60 public opinion polls taken from 2003 to 2009 and aggregated by Smart Politics, the blog of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, shows a remarkable steadiness in T-Paw's appeal to voters.
Pawlenty's average job approval rating over the last year was 54 percent while his disapproval rating was 42 percent. Those numbers are remarkably consistent over the past four years; "through good times and bad, Republicans continue to love him, independents still like him and enough Democrats don't hate him to insure he will be a strong favorite to win again," write the folks at Smart Politics.
In the near term, Pawlenty must decide whether to run for a third term in 2010. His advisers paint him as genuinely undecided but for a man with obvious national ambitions, Pawlenty has to weigh whether the benefits of being a sitting office holder are greater than the possibility that he might come up short at the ballot box next fall.
No matter what he decides, Pawlenty's actions over the past few months have shown a savvy in regards his own political future that should warm the hearts of his allies who would like to see him run for president in 2012.
February 10, 2009; 11:03 AM ET
Categories: Eye on 2012
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